Akira Kosemura – In the Dark Woods.

Akira Kosemura would be a familiar name to those who love exquisite piano based music. He has released on the likes of Someone Good and his on label Schole which is also has been home to the likes of Haruka Nakamura, Flica, Ghost and Tape and others. Such is the popularity that Kosemura has gained over the years with his exceptional music that he has some 473,000 Soundcloud and over 357,000 monthly Spotify listeners. This particular album was released on vinyl, CD+DVD and on the Schole/ 1631 Recordings labels.

The press release states: Treasuring a serene feeling and an intimate conversation with oneself.” is the main concept of his new work, which recalls a vivid emotions, as music goes into one’s body and feels a blood flow deep into a heart. As indicated in the title, an entire album is filled with an obscure darkness and a world of misty sounds never to be feared of, like a comfortable quietness in the dark where a child in the womb is hearing mother’s heartbeat. As the music goes on, it gradually begin to widen an introspective worldview. The combined sounds of repeated phrases as seen in minimal music method, a sophisticated crossover sound in between acoustics and electronics, and an improvisational solo piano will present the worldview suggestive of a broad theme, such as a circulation of life or the law of nature.”

The album feels like an album within an album within an album. There are many styles and territories that Kosemura covers from solo minimalist piano to Sci-fi Synth explorations to Ambient detours to Haunting Modern Classical with occasional bleeding of these styles within tracks. Naturally the standout ones are the solo piano which shows Kosemura at the top of his field and if you’ve been following the artists covered in this blog in the same field (Stefano Guzzetti, Roberto Attanasio, Lorenzo Masotto, Dominique Charpentier, etc…), there is a lot of talented musicians/composers out there.

The album opens with “DNA” a meditative piece combining delicate lighter keys played with restraint under which more strident repetitive playing that has a hypnotic feel. Accompanying this is the sound of what appears to be sonar blips, low-level drones, bells and the natural sound of the piano from the keys and hammers which gives the track an organic and natural feel. The track makes a statement for the pieces to come with its variation and use of mixed elements.

This is followed by “Resonance” that continues in the natural recording style of the piano, presumably down to the placement of microphones to pick up the nuances of the instrument. It’s quite an intimate piece with an almost sing songy flow to it. Due to its short two-minute nature it comes across as an interlude or a bridge track.

“Between the Trees” follows the recording techniques set out before, but the sound has a bit more urgency in it. The playing is more intense with the piece feeling a need to convey or communicate with the listener, to get their attention. The track starts with ominous bass notes that make a return mid track, but make way for more melodic notes with a glacial haze to them. You can easily see this type of track in a soundtrack situation with its repeating theme coming full circle.

“Sphere” is where Kosemura goes interstellar with a Synth track that oscillates, has a jazzy lightly flowing section where you feel that his fingers are barely touching the keys as he floats over them. The contrast in the piece is the Synth oscillating loops are at odds with the seemingly improvises jazzy section. An ice-cold slice of ambience joins in bringing to this fore a hammering section of Synth that fully fits the interstellar vibe with its definite Sci-fi Synth prog feel.

“Kaleidoscope of Happiness” returns to the themes set our previous with the piano driven tracks. Feeling like a relative of “Resonance” you can see why Kosemura has done soundtrack work before as his compositions are a perfect accompaniment for visuals. There is a light feeling of remorse with the track, but not over the top melancholy as there is hope in the second section.

“Inside River #1” and “Inside River #2” are cut from the same cloth, but there are variations within them. The tones of the tracks are slightly different with “Inside River #2” at times feeling a bit muted in sound, but also a bit more intense. This could simply be down to the recording or also Kosemura’s playing.

“Shadows” picks up the speed in playing with the hammers jostling in the sound mix. The track is a mix of high and lower notes with the lower notes being subtle in the mix. When the track enters the final minute you see the intensity and volume peak as Kosemura brings the track to the precipice and stops just before it falls of the cliff.

“Dedicated to Laura Palmer” is a static drenched hazy ambient Synth exploration. There are beds of loops that float in and out, layers of Synth pulses, what sounds like treated electric guitar, glacial tones and hints of the theme music to the TV show by Angelo Badalamenti. The track is a mixture of 70’s ambience with a retro/futurist feel.

“Moving” is a bright hope filled track that uses its lower tones in an ambient fashion with what sound like crickets chirping in the distance. The playing has an intensity that fits the feel of the piece in that it is neither to slow or too fast. At under a minute this is a nice vignette.

“Snowy Sky” is full of field recordings of what sounds like rope scraping across wood like on a boat where the rope is being tightened. Half of the sound palate comes from this and accompanying piano sounds, while the rest comes from the actual piano keys which are melodic and have while comfortingly familiar offer a different feel and mood to that of the previous tracks. Going back to previous tracks on the album I can’t say its reminiscent of others which is a positive thing.

“Spark” opens with an ambient slice alongside minimalist piano with percussive chimes that vaguely bring back the sonar sound of “DNA”. The piano while central to the piece is not the core instrument as the chimes and the ambience make up equal sound to the track. A meditative piece on repetition could with the relaxed nature a reference to the meditative practice of thinking about situations and going over things in your mind which would link up with the album’s theme of Treasuring a serene feeling and an intimate conversation with oneself.”

“Innocence” has Kosemura hammering keys building up opposing sections of the faster lower keys with the spaced out minimalist higher keys creating that juxtaposition of sound and intensity. It brings two opposing styles to bring about different textures and moods. With a track titled “Innocence” I would have expected a more subdued relaxed and ambient-esque track, but I guess the purity is in the spaced out keys.

“The Cycle of Nature” sees Kosemura at his most intense with the fast repeating phrasing joined by what could be water, but is more certainly the hammers and pedals of the piano, a wash of (natural) ambience enters in bringing together another movement which features electronic keys that shimmer across another layer of piano bringing around four layers of keys together. Everything drops out for a brief section bringing it back to the beginning and erupting again with a massive Synth burst of ambience that hovers over everything before the track delightfully fades to silence.

“Stillness of the Holy Place” is the albums epic track clocking in just under ten minutes in length and has a more studio controlled recording where the only thing you hear is the keys and not so much the other elements of the piano (they are there, just not so pronounced) . By having this type of recording the track comes across grandly. There is a sense of control of the piece where you feel that there is a narrative at play. Half way through the track other piano elements come into the sound more clearly. There are several movements with in the track where the intensity shifts from almost calm to more strident, from more meditative to freeform, etc… I personally am not sure what the narrative is and for me the shorter tracks work better than this long one.

“In the Dark Woods” bringing the Modern Classical side into play. Layers of complimenting violin, viola, contrabass and cello cross over each other filling up with sound that is epic in scale and rich with emotion, melancholy and sweeping gestures. Slowly the layering builds up with intensity rising in a way filling up the sound and making the surroundings shrink which is what I presume the title is referring to.

“Letter from a Distance” brings the album to the end where Kosemura returns to the delicateness of solo piano that he has demonstrated throughout the album. After going epic on the second and third last tracks, we see the sublime playing lead out as if over the final credits of a movie, book ending the album and reinforcing the mastery of delicate, subtle, emotional piano pieces in the of Kosemura.

Throughout the album Kosemura has demonstrated why he has such a following. For some a strictly solo piano album could be too much of a same thing, but for Kosemura he knows how to construct an album that can sound familiar but you look back to the other tracks you cannot pin point which track it is. Naturally with a genre like Modern Classical /Solo piano that is fast becoming a saturated one, it helps to be a great composer and this is what Kosemura has on his side. Add to the fact that Kosemura doesn’t just rely on Piano and you have an artist that sustains the listeners interest and keeps them engaged.

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Jakob Lindhagen – Skörheten.

Jakob Linghagen from Stockholm, Sweden is one of the latest signings to the 1631 Recordings label and before he releases his 1631 Recordings debut proper they have re-issued his soundtrack “Skörheten” digitally and added 3 bonus tracks. If his name is familiar that is because his name graced this blog recently when he helped out on his girlfriend’s Vargkvint project.

Jakob, a multi instrumentalist, also records under the Other People moniker (previously known as “…”) and released the “Somewhere Far Away” CD and remix EP “Black Swans” on the Feeder Recordings labels. The project was split between the UK and Australia. He has also worked on other short films and other commissions.

“Skörheten” which translates to “Fragility” in English, is an award-winning Documentary film (Winner Newcomer of the year, Guldabaggegalan, Sweden, 2017 -Winner of Best Swedish Feature – The City of Gothenburg Award, Gothenburg Film Festival, 2017 as well as being nominated in other festivals). The film’s synopsis is “In the peak of her career documentary filmmaker Ahang Bashi falls down in a deep gorge of panic attacks and depression. With a skin deep precision, beautiful imagery and a black humor she carries the viewer into the swirling world of anxiety, sometimes dark and sometimes hopeful. With the camera as her tool she brings us back in time to the escape from Iran and the little girl who did not understand.”

“Intro” opens the album with slightly grainy humming vibrations with screeching droves cascading in an out, sounds that reach out like a pebble dropped in water, minimal piano and electronics.  As the film is about anxiety/panic attacks/depression the building humming and drones can replicate the onset of panic attacks and the minimal piano can represent the alone feeling of depression. A nice start to the album.

“Ett Mörker” which translates to “A Darkness” continues with similar grainy humming beginning and longer drones paired alongside a delicate piano line. It could almost be a reprise of “Intro” if not for the more ominous grainy electronics that form the underbelly of the track and come to the fore at the end and brings “The Darkness” to the track.

“Mottagningen” which translates to “The Reception” is a layered mournful piano piece with double bass that keeps the mood the same being a bit down beat. This theme follows into the track “Varför mår jag dåligt?” which translates to “Why am I miserable?” which opens with accordion alongside piano and double bass and has, naturally, a jazz meets noir feel to it. In the last-minute of the track it totally changes with rippling ,echoing presumably synthesizer keys floating out.

“Läggas in?” translated to “Being Admitted?” is mournful solo piano that conveys despair in its rolling keys, use of silence and the way Lindhagen uses the lengths of the notes to accentuate this. There is a slight section where you think the mood of the piece will change, but it keeps on with despair.

“I Parken” translates to “In the Park” opens with backward loops of some sort of string drone, double bass, piano, synthesizer and electronics. The piano and synthesizer parts work well together with the synthesizer having an aquatic feel to it, like slightly echoing or shimmering. The loops form a nice background for the other elements to add onto and give the piece pace.

“Fotot” translates to “The Photo” and is a reprise of “Varför mår jag dåligt?”, but is shorter and focuses a little more on the piano element.

“T-Centralen” translated to “The Central Station” shares similar opening elements as “Intro” before electronic sounds scatter about like glass balls rolling around, grainy/glitch loops , drones,  Sci Fi like synths all collide together in a pattern. Without seeing the movie the impression is of being in a central station at night, alone, isolated with impending anxiety crowding around someone. The track is a great slice of cinematic electronica which separates itself from the other tracks on the soundtrack. Naturally with it being a piece from the film the length is short to fit a scene, but it would be great to see this extended and fleshed out.

“Samtel med Roxy” translates to  “Conversation with Roxy” has some sound of steps or like a metronome with a distant noise and solo piano which continues with a walking sort of sound that changes to sharper keys in the middle of the track to the end. Again, not having seem the film the change in the piano of the track makes me think that there is a change in the conversation in the film. Whether that is good or bad change in the conversation I am not sure.

“Jävla Ångest” or “Damn Anxiety” is a stripped back solo piano track, hammers and all that mines the same territory as “Läggas in?”, but is very brief.

“Skörheten” which translates to “Fragility” takes a variation of the synthesizer part from the second half of “I Parken” as it’s central part. A humming sound supports the synthesized progressions with reverberating pinging keys that expand out and build up ever so slightly in intensity with a distant and growing distortion replacing the humming that ends in decay. I imagine this to be the music to match the end titles of the film.

“Skevheten”  which roughly translates to “The Skewedness” (and is a play on the word “Skörheten”) is a mere fragment of a track being only 33 seconds in length, but still gives the listener a visual impression to it’s aural key. For me it could be used in a scene where the character is looking at themselves in a mirror and examining all the parts of their face and the way they perceive themselves to look in the way that depression or anxiety can cloud over someone and affect the way they see themselves.

“Bra Liv” translates to “Good Life” and is the true essence of melancholic solo piano that appears to have some sort of echo effect at points where notes are slightly stretched out.

“I Parken 2”  aka “In the Park 2” takes the original piece and changes it from piano to Synth parts with the drones instead of being backward appear forward and three-quarters into the track percussion of a dubstep or trip hop persuasion comes and gives it a “versioning” feel rather than a remix.

Overall this is an impressive album with miniatures that would be great if expanded. It shows of Lindhagen’s talent and flexibility and a composer to use different elements to the tracks so it’s not a case of “same same”. I look forward to what he brings us on his next release. Totally recommended.

Roberto Attanasio – Behind Those Eyes I Rest.

Behind Those Eyes I Rest

“When I was thirteen I started producing music with my computer, passing through many genres. I was fascinated by the possibility to manipulate the sound with equalizers, compressors and new digital technologies. The first timed I touched my little midi keyboard I tried to compose a little track without knowing anything about the instrument. In that moment I saw the piano as the best way to express myself and I started my musical studies” – Roberto Attanasio

Italians are renowned for their passion, be it cooking, the arts, romance. So it is no surprise that when it comes to one of the most passionate forms of music, Modern Classical,  they are amongst the front-runners in this genre. No coincidence is that five reviews into this blog’s short life and the third Modern Classical release reviewed again comes from an Italian artist, this time its Roberto Attanasio.
It seems that Roberto just appeared in 2016 with two albums (“Abyss” and “Another Shade”) and the two singles (“Shade” and “Run”) all on the 1631 Recordings label. But he had in fact released the single “Closed” back in 2014 for an audio video project with Chris De Krijger (which can be viewed here). This year he contributed “Somnus”  to the “Piano Clouds Vol. 3” and on May 26 sees the release his new digital single “Behind  These Eyes I Rest”, again on 1631 Recordings.

This two song Ep/single with striking blood film looking cover art was composed, arranged and produced at his home studio in Italy using a Kawai BL 71 vertical piano with the harp of a grand piano. In an email exchange Roberto states that “I usually create piano solo compositions just because some of my ideas come from improvisation. ..I’m very inspired by the act of playing for hours and take one particular good ideas I found. This Ep is completely different because I created it in a few days, thanks to he fact that I had these songs in mind from the start to the end.”
“Behind Those Eyes” , which is 3 minutes 16 seconds in duration has 3 distinct movements. It starts with ambient sounds, in that I mean environmental sounds and sounds of the piano itself and some sort of ‘clacking’ sound that gives you the impression that the windows have been opened to let in light and sound. The piece builds rather quickly with the first motif, a rolling ever so slightly melancholy part coming in only 12 seconds into the track which becomes the main part of the track until at the one minute mark where strings come in and more immediate melodic part adds to the melancholy. At the two-minute mark after a very slight pause an upper register section appears, underplayed by a more mournful part which balances each other out, giving light and shade and which guides the remainder of the track through till its final section of strings and minimal piano. Interestingly the ‘clacking’ sound re-appears at the end as if returning the journey back to the start.For a piece that is relatively short in duration there are several movements that appear to mark the track as being longer, which is something that you would be happy if it happened.

The second track “I Rest” which runs for 3:00 minutes in duration, the familiar mix of strings and piano playing which while it doesn’t have the same amount of movements as its predecessor, has consistent pace and phrasing that allows it flow well. The strings are used to highlight and accompany the piano without drawing attention away from it.  There is bright uplifting feel about the track, which could be explained by the previous quote from Roberto about his joy and inspiration of just playing the piano.

As Roberto mentioned in our email exchange in regards to his method of writing /recording his music “The only thing I had to do was transcribe I had in mind, and that was incredible because what you listen to is exactly the song I played in my mind. I didn’t do any change respect to my music thoughts and maybe this is the beauty of the Ep : spontaneous and intimate.”

I think the last word of that quote best sums it up this Ep and the recording style of it. – intimate.

“Behind Those Eyes I Rest” is out on May 26 via 1631 Recordings.

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